Outrageous bullying for the good of the family in G B Stern’s The Matriarch

Detailed discussion of The Matriarch by G. B.Stern

Kate Macdonald

the edition I have, with the rich and passionate painting by Mark Gertler the edition I have, the cover using this rich and passionate painting by Mark Gertler

There is something particularly enjoyable about a female villain in fiction, written for readers who expect women to be pure, perfect, and positive. I did a podcast miniseries in 2012 on jaw-droppingly awful, truly appalling female characters, all behaving badly. It was immense fun to research and write, because these characters are so vile that when I’m reading them, they make me (metaphorically) rise up and shout in outrage. In G B Stern’s The Matriarch (1924) we are cowering before the most unstoppably interfering Jewish mother I’ve ever read.

The Matriarch is the first in a loosely connected series of superb novels about the Rakonitzes’ family life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in London, Paris, and Vienna, and anywhere where there was life and liveliness and the Uncles could do business and their adored elder sister Anastasia could entertain. Anastasia Rakonitz is the Matriarch, the…

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